While exploring Myanmar, many things are subject to the astonishment of the unfamiliar visitors of this exotic country. One of those is, of course, the facial colouring of Burmese women and children that is known locally as “Thanaka” (pronounced ta-na-KAH).
Thanaka is a paste with a distinctive bright yellowish-white color. It can be applied on the face in many ways, with shapes ranging from simple shapes to an elaborate drawing of a leaf or flower. This usually sparks the curiosity of the traveler who might ask, what is this powder made of? What is it for?
How Thanaka is Made
The primary ingredient is wood of the Thanaka tree (Hesperethusa crenulata) which thrives in the drier central regions of Myanmar. A tree typically grows to a height of 9 metres (30 ft) and is harvested after 35 years.
Preparation of Thanaka powder has actually changed little in its 2,000-year history. A small log or root is ground against a circular stone slab, or kyauk pyin, and combined with a bit of water, the resulting creamy mixture can be applied immediately. For quick on-the-go application, Thanaka is also sold in portable canisters in powder or paste form.
Health Benefits of Thanaka
Applied over the cheeks, nose, and neck, Thanaka doubles as both a cosmetic beauty product and skincare regimen. Marmesin, one of its active ingredients, acts as a natural sunblock against the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays while also providing a refreshing, cooling effect in hot weather.
Other beneficial properties as an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, moisture regulator and cleanser also serve to promote softer, smoother skin and healthy complexion. And unlike manufactured skincare products, Thanaka is completely organic and has no harmful side effects to the user nor the environment.
Discover Thanka With Heritage Line
On board our boutique luxury ship, Anawrahta, our expert guides demonstrate the longstanding traditions of Myanmar such as Thanaka and the longyi skirt (worn by both men and women). We highly encourage our guests to immerse themselves in Burmese culture and try both of these!
Unforgettable cruises along the Ayeyarwady and Chindwin Rivers will resume in August 2023, with journeys ranging from 2 to 11 nights.